|Our annual family curry night (a full house [as opposed to a full house] except for the two taking pictures)|
After spending four days in South Wales for Lauren & Lewis’s wedding we ended up staying with them on the Tuesday night in their house in Reading. For the third year running we had hired a house in Hartley Wintney in Hampshire for the two weeks over the festive period. The house is just right for our large brood of children who appear and stay at various times over the fortnight.
As we had the house from the Wednesday, we decided it wasn’t worth going back to the boat for one night and that is why we stayed at Lauren’s on the Tuesday. Having been away from the boat for a week already the stove would only have got the place cosy by the time we had to leave again.
We arrived at Hartley Wintney on Wednesday morning and soon settled in with fires on the go in the living rooms. The house had had a new lick of paint and all the kitchen units had also been painted a different colour. We all joked that really the owners should have checked with us first as it now feels like a second home for us!
|Buddy hogging the fire in the snug|
We had an early start on Saturday as Karen & Catherine were in a 10km race in Greenwich. The original plan had been to get a train up to London but there was a strike on South West trains, so I ended up driving them around the M25 to get them there by 9.00am. Jo and Buddy came with us too to help cheer the girls on.
|Looking across to Canary Wharf from Greenwich Park whilst cheering on the runners|
Lauren, as usual, took charge of the jigsaw puzzle room. We have had a tradition of doing jigsaw puzzles at Christmas for many years. At Hartley Wintney we have to complete the first one before Christmas Day. This is because the two largest tables have to be put together to accommodate the 16 or so people we have over for lunch. The table in the jigsaw puzzle room being one of the tables that has to be moved.
|Interesting puzzle this year – two scenes the same with 100 years separating them|
|Lauren congratulating herself for completing the first puzzle in record time|
With children coming from all over the UK and Europe there were a constant stream of deliverymen arriving at the door. Having packages delivered to our Christmas home saves bulky luggage on trains, planes and in cars.
|Important package arriving – the disco ball|
The guy who delivered the ball was a bit upset when he came with a package after Christmas as we didn’t want a picture that time around.
Karen and I have been cooking Christmas lunch for a dozen or more people for at least 16 years and we always manage with a rough plan of timings in our heads. For some reason, this year we decided to put a plan together on paper. I did it on a spreadsheet, so we could sort it in various sequences such as: time, action (prep, boil, roast etc.), person responsible and appliance being used. At least we now have a plan for use in future years.
|Working hard on the festive lunch spreadsheet|
At lunchtime on Monday we had a phone call from the vets; Buddy had failed his titre test. This means he doesn’t have enough rabies antibodies in his system in order to get back into the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit happening on 29th March. We immediately booked him in for a further rabies injection followed by yet another titre test 30 days later – the minimum time allowed. Even if this test is positive, he won’t be allowed back in the UK (under a no-deal) until a further three months have elapsed, unless there is an extension to the exit date. Titre tests are not required for travelling within the EU so this is all new for UK pet owners travelling to Europe this year.
Of course, if there is a deal, we won’t know whether these tests are required and, if there is an extension to the date, we won’t know what the process will be so we now await the vote on 11th January. We are rather against moving to France on 25th March if we can’t get back in an emergency for a few months.
As well as some of our children, Karen’s mum and her sister and her family joined us on Christmas Day. Steve came up from Lewes on a new route he had devised in order to go through hamlets and villages rather than main roads. He also collects VR post boxes and was keen to get ahead on our family scoresheet. He was very lucky and found five to add to his tally!
|Festive cooking schedule nearly completed (with a few amendments along the way)|
Thursday evening saw Polly and me driving down to Southampton for a football match. Although Polly goes to at least two games every year, this was the first time she had seen our side lose.
|Getting ready to lose to West Ham|
The last Saturday of the year/first Saturday of the new year is traditionally our family curry night. All our children and partners attend so we have quite a houseful. We always cook four different curries and, one of the star side menu items (apparently) are my vegetable bhajis.
Many years ago, the children all surprised me when I was cooking and suddenly appeared in the kitchen wearing orange tee-shirts. Since then we have always worn orange tee-shirts on curry day. Sadly, with tee-shirts getting lost or forgotten, only a few of us remembered this year.
After our meal, secret Santa arrives. This is popular as it avoids the unnecessary expense of everyone buying everyone else a present. It is also good fun seeing how inventive people are when shopping on a strict budget.
Matthew was over from Norway and organised a game of “What is that Norwegian thing in my mouth”.
|Matthew preparing the plates for his game|
|Some of the contestants being blindfolded|
Later on, Sophie got her newly acquired disco ball out and we all (well mainly the girls) had a good dance for a couple of hours.
|Our daughters boogying away|
I don’t know whether it was because of the drink or that the ball was particularly good but Lauren and Jo both ordered disco balls later in the night, so they could use them at their new year parties.
|Starting on the port (the reindeer was a temporary addition)|
It remained unseasonably mild over the whole time away, but we tended to have at least one log burner on the go every day as we all feel it’s more cosy and homely with a real fire.
By the time New Year’s Day arrived only Sophie & Yanos were left with us so the last couple of days were very quiet and we took the opportunity to relax and do very little.
Each day of the holiday included a walk into the village which meant walking through the great stands of oak trees that can be found all around Hartley Wintney. Most of these are now over 200 years old and were planted under the orders of the Lady of the manor after the battle of Trafalgar. She was Lady Mildmay and the oaks are known today as the Mildmay oaks. She was responding to the request of the Navy commander to plant oaks, so the nation would always have ships and hence always be a great nation 😕
|Some of the Mildmay oaks|
|I’m sorry but I can’t help including this picture|
Some people ask if we miss living on the boat when we are on holiday and the honest answer is that we don’t; we think it’s because we’re on holiday so know it’s not permanent and that we will be going back home. It would certainly be a different feeling if we knew we were back on land for good. When we do have time away from the boat, we do take a while getting used to having limitless water and electricity on tap and we don’t miss having to run the engine for hot water or searching out waste disposal sites.
After a frantic time cleaning the house and washing all the bedclothes on Wednesday morning, we set off back to Aylesbury. It didn’t take too long to unpack and get settled in and, even though the weather has now turned a bit colder, it wasn’t long until the stove started warming through the boat.
|When we got back, the boat was all safe & sound outside Waitrose still|
We now need to work out where we will be cruising during our last three months in the UK. At the moment we don’t fancy going too far, probably staying around the Marsworth area. We both would like to venture down the Wendover arm again and moor at the end for a while, so I suspect that will be first on the list.
Having been away for three weeks we will probably relax for a couple of days before going anywhere - it certainly is a good feeling to be home again and no doubt Buddy feels the same too 😁😁